The Word of the Cross – an Excerpt from Crucified and Resurrected

The following is an excerpt from Crucified and Resurrected, by Ingolf Dalferth.

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“The sole distinguishing feature that radically separates Christianity and its Lord from other religions and their gods is the cross.” Ernst Käsemann’s assertion reminds us emphatically that the decisive difference between Christians and non-Christians does not lie in the divergence between their resurrection hopes or ideas of God, their distinctive concepts of reality or expectations of salvation, their attitudes to life or their lifestyles, but that any differences in these areas are due to one fundamental distinction that is symbolized by the cross and is articulated sharply and unequivocally in the word of the cross.

Cover ArtWe can reach an understanding about concepts of God; together we can admit our awareness of the utter dependence of our existence; we do not dispute the role of the religious dimension in helping us to cope with the contingency of human life; and we can come to an arrangement concerning organized religion and church. But at the cross there is a parting of the ways.

Before the cross all our deductions and conclusions; our efforts to illuminate, clarify, and provide metaphysical explanations; and our attempts at moral legitimization and aesthetic assessment come to naught. The cross is an affront: it contradicts all our expectations and all that we take for granted. It demands that we revise our ideas about God and about our life and our world.

If the word of the cross is true, then the moral and religious coordinates of good and evil, God and the world, salvation and perdition—these coordinates by which we steer our lives—are inaccurate. This means that our wisdom is foolishness, our search for meaning is meaningless, our good deeds are well intentioned at best, and our religion is organized unbelief. Paul knew that. Luther discovered it. Barth reaffirmed it. It is vital that christological reflection bear this constantly in mind.

©2015 by Ingolf U. Dalferth. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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